Welcome to Curling People Now’s series on the 2022 Winter Olympics. On a (hopefully) daily basis HPN will take a look at the events of the day before, and the day ahead.
The warm ups
As the schedule of the Olympics has increased over the years, as has the competition before the actual competition.
Roughly one quarter of Australia’s athletes at the 2022 Olympics have already seen competition, with some practically or actually ruled out of medal contention before the medal ceremony.
Events in four disciplines have already commenced, alongside training for several other sports. If things keep progressing at this rate, the Olympics may get to a period where most of the competition occurs before the Olympics officially starts.
Count HPN as fans of the surprise Olympics approach.
The first medal event
One hundred and nine gold medals (pending ties) will be handed out at the 2022 Games, but only one can be first.
In 2022 the eyes of the world will be turned to the cross country tracks and the women’s 15km skiathlon, formerly the combined. The skiathlon blends the two styles of cross country skiing, freestyle and classic, into one event. It even includes a equipment changeover in the middle for fans of the land triathlon.
The reigning Olympic champion in the event hasn’t made the trip to China, likewise the 2018 silver medallist. Nordic countries have historically dominated the event, and the three-time reigning World Champion in the event is Therese Johaug from Norway.
Johaug is somewhat controversial in the sport, having served a 18 month suspension for doping from 2016 on. She will be looking for her first Olympic medal, and the first of anyone at the Games.
In recent Winter Olympics, snow quality and security has been an issue, but the 2022 Games will be pushing the limits of what is possible. Most observers will note that the green and brown hills next to narrow paths of white.
While the area for the skiing events is very cold, often below -20°C at night, there’s little to no natural snowfall. Instead, the organisers undertook an ambitious snowmaking project to hold the games. The result is visually out of the world, but due to the cold temperatures the quality of snow is said to be fine.
It will make for one of the more interesting sights of the games.
Australia’s best hopes on night one will come in the men’s moguls, one of Australia’s most successful events. Due to the quality of snow in Australia and the relatively short slopes on offer, the country has built up a solid program over the years.
Dale Begg-Smith won a gold medal in the 2006 Olympics, and silver in Vancouver in 2010. Matt Graham, one of the favourites in 2022, won the silver medal in 2018. He will have to get to the final the hard way after falling in the first qualifying session, forcing him to place in the top ten of the second session to make the final.
Alternative medal tally
The Winter Olympics consist of a lot of events specialised for areas of the world with sub-arctic temperatures and the medal tally dominated by the likes of Norway, Canada and Russia reflects this. Warm and tropical countries don’t generally have the facilities or traditions to produce champion winter Olympians.
There are however some balmier countries which have managed to have success. Here’s what the medal table would look like if only those warmer countries were counted.
Italy, a Mediterranean country with plenty of alpine land, leads the way here followed by France, but Australia, the warmest country to have ever won an Olympic medal, has punched well above its weight in snow as well.